One of the most common questions asked by people considering treatment is “Will I lose my job if I go to rehab?”. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1992 (FMLA) can help protect people in this situation. Understanding FMLA and addiction treatment is critical for any employee battling drug or alcohol dependence. The FMLA can protect both your job and your privacy while you get the help you need – if you understand how it works.
The protections FMLA can provide include:
- Up to 12-weeks of unpaid leave per calendar year.
- Your employer must continue your healthcare coverage on the same terms.
- You must be restored to your original, or an equivalent job with equivalent benefits and pay.
- Any records related to your FMLA leave must be treated as confidential and private.
You may qualify for FMLA protection if:
- You have been working for least 25 hours a week at the same company for at least one year.
- The company has at least 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius.
- You give your employer as much advance notice as possible of where you will go and for how long.
- You file a formal request and provide a recommendation from a medical professional.
Addiction is a recognized medical condition. It should no more be a source of shame than if you needed your appendix removed or to have a hysterectomy. It is important to understand your rights and advocate for yourself. You are entitled to medical care and consideration from your employer while you seek the help you need. You have the right to expect privacy and to return to work with your dignity intact.
It is also important to know you aren’t alone. Alcohol and drug rehabs have case managers who are experts in navigating paperwork for the FMLA and addiction treatment. The human resources department in your company is required to understand and comply with the FMLA. The good news is this isn’t uncharted territory. Thousands of people get addiction treatment every year under the protection of the FMLA and return to work healthy.
In plain language, when you are under the protection of the FMLA you can take up to 12-weeks off to receive treatment. Your employer must continue your health insurance. They must hold your job for you or give you an equal job with equal pay when you return. Your employer cannot punish or discriminate against you. Your employer and your insurance company must treat any records related to your FMLA leave completely confidential and store them separate from your other work files.
The fear of losing a job has kept far too many people from getting the help they need. Arming yourself with a good working knowledge of the FMLA and addiction treatment may be the best way to overcome that obstacle. Know your rights and be willing to ask for help. You deserve it. One great place to begin is the Department of Labor’s FMLA website at https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla